Toronto, Ontario — U.S. auto safety regulators have announced that they are getting to the bottom of Tesla’s Autopilot driver assistance system, as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) launches a formal safety probe into the much-publicized piece of technology.
This probe from the NHTSA comes as a result of 11 crashes since January 2018 in which Tesla models “have encountered first responder scenes and subsequently struck one or more vehicles involved with those scenes.”
According to the NHTSA, such crashes have already caused 17 injuries and one death since the software was launched, most recently last month in San Diego, Calif.
“The involved subject vehicles were all confirmed to have been engaged in either Autopilot or Traffic Aware Cruise Control during the approach to the crashes,” said the NHTSA in the document introducing the probe.
The probe is intended to cover the estimated 765,000 Tesla vehicles currently on U.S. roads and “will assess the technologies and methods used to monitor, assist, and enforce the driver’s engagement with the dynamic driving task during Autopilot operation.”
Tesla’s Autopilot system has been noted in the past for struggling in situations involving a combination of low-light and flashing emergency lights from first responders.
The NHTSA says it has been working since June to sort out 30 Tesla crash cases that have occurred since 2016, which the organization suspects faulty Autopilot systems are in part responsible for.
In its statement, the NHTSA reminded drivers that “no commercially available motor vehicles today are capable of driving themselves…Certain advanced driving assistance features can promote safety by helping drivers avoid crashes and mitigate the severity of crashes that occur, but as with all technologies and equipment on motor vehicles, drivers must use them correctly and responsibly.”